Ankur Bapna


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Multilingual Mix: Example Interpolation Improves Multilingual Neural Machine Translation
Yong Cheng | Ankur Bapna | Orhan Firat | Yuan Cao | Pidong Wang | Wolfgang Macherey
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Multilingual neural machine translation models are trained to maximize the likelihood of a mix of examples drawn from multiple language pairs. The dominant inductive bias applied to these models is a shared vocabulary and a shared set of parameters across languages; the inputs and labels corresponding to examples drawn from different language pairs might still reside in distinct sub-spaces. In this paper, we introduce multilingual crossover encoder-decoder (mXEncDec) to fuse language pairs at an instance level. Our approach interpolates instances from different language pairs into joint ‘crossover examples’ in order to encourage sharing input and output spaces across languages. To ensure better fusion of examples in multilingual settings, we propose several techniques to improve example interpolation across dissimilar languages under heavy data imbalance. Experiments on a large-scale WMT multilingual dataset demonstrate that our approach significantly improves quality on English-to-Many, Many-to-English and zero-shot translation tasks (from +0.5 BLEU up to +5.5 BLEU points). Results on code-switching sets demonstrate the capability of our approach to improve model generalization to out-of-distribution multilingual examples. We also conduct qualitative and quantitative representation comparisons to analyze the advantages of our approach at the representation level.

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Multilingual Document-Level Translation Enables Zero-Shot Transfer From Sentences to Documents
Biao Zhang | Ankur Bapna | Melvin Johnson | Ali Dabirmoghaddam | Naveen Arivazhagan | Orhan Firat
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Document-level neural machine translation (DocNMT) achieves coherent translations by incorporating cross-sentence context. However, for most language pairs there’s a shortage of parallel documents, although parallel sentences are readily available. In this paper, we study whether and how contextual modeling in DocNMT is transferable via multilingual modeling. We focus on the scenario of zero-shot transfer from teacher languages with document level data to student languages with no documents but sentence level data, and for the first time treat document-level translation as a transfer learning problem. Using simple concatenation-based DocNMT, we explore the effect of 3 factors on the transfer: the number of teacher languages with document level data, the balance between document and sentence level data at training, and the data condition of parallel documents (genuine vs. back-translated). Our experiments on Europarl-7 and IWSLT-10 show the feasibility of multilingual transfer for DocNMT, particularly on document-specific metrics. We observe that more teacher languages and adequate data balance both contribute to better transfer quality. Surprisingly, the transfer is less sensitive to the data condition, where multilingual DocNMT delivers decent performance with either back-translated or genuine document pairs.


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Beyond Distillation: Task-level Mixture-of-Experts for Efficient Inference
Sneha Kudugunta | Yanping Huang | Ankur Bapna | Maxim Krikun | Dmitry Lepikhin | Minh-Thang Luong | Orhan Firat
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

Sparse Mixture-of-Experts (MoE) has been a successful approach for scaling multilingual translation models to billions of parameters without a proportional increase in training computation. However, MoE models are prohibitively large and practitioners often resort to methods such as distillation for serving. In this work, we investigate routing strategies at different granularity (token, sentence, task) in MoE models to bypass distillation. Experiments on WMT and a web-scale dataset suggest that task-level routing (task-MoE) enables us to extract smaller, ready-to-deploy sub-networks from large sparse models. On WMT, our task-MoE with 32 experts (533M parameters) outperforms the best performing token-level MoE model (token-MoE) by +1.0 BLEU on average across 30 language pairs. The peak inference throughput is also improved by a factor of 1.9x when we route by tasks instead of tokens. While distilling a token-MoE to a smaller dense model preserves only 32% of the BLEU gains, our sub-network task-MoE, by design, preserves all the gains with the same inference cost as the distilled student model. Finally, when scaling up to 200 language pairs, our 128-expert task-MoE (13B parameters) performs competitively with a token-level counterpart, while improving the peak inference throughput by a factor of 2.6x.


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Language ID in the Wild: Unexpected Challenges on the Path to a Thousand-Language Web Text Corpus
Isaac Caswell | Theresa Breiner | Daan van Esch | Ankur Bapna
Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

Large text corpora are increasingly important for a wide variety of Natural Language Processing (NLP) tasks, and automatic language identification (LangID) is a core technology needed to collect such datasets in a multilingual context. LangID is largely treated as solved in the literature, with models reported that achieve over 90% average F1 on as many as 1,366 languages. We train LangID models on up to 1,629 languages with comparable quality on held-out test sets, but find that human-judged LangID accuracy for web-crawl text corpora created using these models is only around 5% for many lower-resource languages, suggesting a need for more robust evaluation. Further analysis revealed a variety of error modes, arising from domain mismatch, class imbalance, language similarity, and insufficiently expressive models. We propose two classes of techniques to mitigate these errors: wordlist-based tunable-precision filters (for which we release curated lists in about 500 languages) and transformer-based semi-supervised LangID models, which increase median dataset precision from 5.5% to 71.2%. These techniques enable us to create an initial data set covering 100K or more relatively clean sentences in each of 500+ languages, paving the way towards a 1,000-language web text corpus.

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Leveraging Monolingual Data with Self-Supervision for Multilingual Neural Machine Translation
Aditya Siddhant | Ankur Bapna | Yuan Cao | Orhan Firat | Mia Chen | Sneha Kudugunta | Naveen Arivazhagan | Yonghui Wu
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Over the last few years two promising research directions in low-resource neural machine translation (NMT) have emerged. The first focuses on utilizing high-resource languages to improve the quality of low-resource languages via multilingual NMT. The second direction employs monolingual data with self-supervision to pre-train translation models, followed by fine-tuning on small amounts of supervised data. In this work, we join these two lines of research and demonstrate the efficacy of monolingual data with self-supervision in multilingual NMT. We offer three major results: (i) Using monolingual data significantly boosts the translation quality of low-resource languages in multilingual models. (ii) Self-supervision improves zero-shot translation quality in multilingual models. (iii) Leveraging monolingual data with self-supervision provides a viable path towards adding new languages to multilingual models, getting up to 33 BLEU on ro-en translation without any parallel data or back-translation.


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Simple, Scalable Adaptation for Neural Machine Translation
Ankur Bapna | Orhan Firat
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Fine-tuning pre-trained Neural Machine Translation (NMT) models is the dominant approach for adapting to new languages and domains. However, fine-tuning requires adapting and maintaining a separate model for each target task. We propose a simple yet efficient approach for adaptation in NMT. Our proposed approach consists of injecting tiny task specific adapter layers into a pre-trained model. These lightweight adapters, with just a small fraction of the original model size, adapt the model to multiple individual tasks simultaneously. We evaluate our approach on two tasks: (i) Domain Adaptation and (ii) Massively Multilingual NMT. Experiments on domain adaptation demonstrate that our proposed approach is on par with full fine-tuning on various domains, dataset sizes and model capacities. On a massively multilingual dataset of 103 languages, our adaptation approach bridges the gap between individual bilingual models and one massively multilingual model for most language pairs, paving the way towards universal machine translation.

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Investigating Multilingual NMT Representations at Scale
Sneha Kudugunta | Ankur Bapna | Isaac Caswell | Orhan Firat
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Multilingual Neural Machine Translation (NMT) models have yielded large empirical success in transfer learning settings. However, these black-box representations are poorly understood, and their mode of transfer remains elusive. In this work, we attempt to understand massively multilingual NMT representations (with 103 languages) using Singular Value Canonical Correlation Analysis (SVCCA), a representation similarity framework that allows us to compare representations across different languages, layers and models. Our analysis validates several empirical results and long-standing intuitions, and unveils new observations regarding how representations evolve in a multilingual translation model. We draw three major results from our analysis, with implications on cross-lingual transfer learning: (i) Encoder representations of different languages cluster based on linguistic similarity, (ii) Representations of a source language learned by the encoder are dependent on the target language, and vice-versa, and (iii) Representations of high resource and/or linguistically similar languages are more robust when fine-tuning on an arbitrary language pair, which is critical to determining how much cross-lingual transfer can be expected in a zero or few-shot setting. We further connect our findings with existing empirical observations in multilingual NMT and transfer learning.

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Non-Parametric Adaptation for Neural Machine Translation
Ankur Bapna | Orhan Firat
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies, Volume 1 (Long and Short Papers)

Neural Networks trained with gradient descent are known to be susceptible to catastrophic forgetting caused by parameter shift during the training process. In the context of Neural Machine Translation (NMT) this results in poor performance on heterogeneous datasets and on sub-tasks like rare phrase translation. On the other hand, non-parametric approaches are immune to forgetting, perfectly complementing the generalization ability of NMT. However, attempts to combine non-parametric or retrieval based approaches with NMT have only been successful on narrow domains, possibly due to over-reliance on sentence level retrieval. We propose a novel n-gram level retrieval approach that relies on local phrase level similarities, allowing us to retrieve neighbors that are useful for translation even when overall sentence similarity is low. We complement this with an expressive neural network, allowing our model to extract information from the noisy retrieved context. We evaluate our Semi-parametric NMT approach on a heterogeneous dataset composed of WMT, IWSLT, JRC-Acquis and OpenSubtitles, and demonstrate gains on all 4 evaluation sets. The Semi-parametric nature of our approach also opens the door for non-parametric domain adaptation, demonstrating strong inference-time adaptation performance on new domains without the need for any parameter updates.


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The Best of Both Worlds: Combining Recent Advances in Neural Machine Translation
Mia Xu Chen | Orhan Firat | Ankur Bapna | Melvin Johnson | Wolfgang Macherey | George Foster | Llion Jones | Mike Schuster | Noam Shazeer | Niki Parmar | Ashish Vaswani | Jakob Uszkoreit | Lukasz Kaiser | Zhifeng Chen | Yonghui Wu | Macduff Hughes
Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

The past year has witnessed rapid advances in sequence-to-sequence (seq2seq) modeling for Machine Translation (MT). The classic RNN-based approaches to MT were first out-performed by the convolutional seq2seq model, which was then out-performed by the more recent Transformer model. Each of these new approaches consists of a fundamental architecture accompanied by a set of modeling and training techniques that are in principle applicable to other seq2seq architectures. In this paper, we tease apart the new architectures and their accompanying techniques in two ways. First, we identify several key modeling and training techniques, and apply them to the RNN architecture, yielding a new RNMT+ model that outperforms all of the three fundamental architectures on the benchmark WMT’14 English to French and English to German tasks. Second, we analyze the properties of each fundamental seq2seq architecture and devise new hybrid architectures intended to combine their strengths. Our hybrid models obtain further improvements, outperforming the RNMT+ model on both benchmark datasets.

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Training Deeper Neural Machine Translation Models with Transparent Attention
Ankur Bapna | Mia Chen | Orhan Firat | Yuan Cao | Yonghui Wu
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

While current state-of-the-art NMT models, such as RNN seq2seq and Transformers, possess a large number of parameters, they are still shallow in comparison to convolutional models used for both text and vision applications. In this work we attempt to train significantly (2-3x) deeper Transformer and Bi-RNN encoders for machine translation. We propose a simple modification to the attention mechanism that eases the optimization of deeper models, and results in consistent gains of 0.7-1.1 BLEU on the benchmark WMT’14 English-German and WMT’15 Czech-English tasks for both architectures.

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Revisiting Character-Based Neural Machine Translation with Capacity and Compression
Colin Cherry | George Foster | Ankur Bapna | Orhan Firat | Wolfgang Macherey
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Translating characters instead of words or word-fragments has the potential to simplify the processing pipeline for neural machine translation (NMT), and improve results by eliminating hyper-parameters and manual feature engineering. However, it results in longer sequences in which each symbol contains less information, creating both modeling and computational challenges. In this paper, we show that the modeling problem can be solved by standard sequence-to-sequence architectures of sufficient depth, and that deep models operating at the character level outperform identical models operating over word fragments. This result implies that alternative architectures for handling character input are better viewed as methods for reducing computation time than as improved ways of modeling longer sequences. From this perspective, we evaluate several techniques for character-level NMT, verify that they do not match the performance of our deep character baseline model, and evaluate the performance versus computation time tradeoffs they offer. Within this framework, we also perform the first evaluation for NMT of conditional computation over time, in which the model learns which timesteps can be skipped, rather than having them be dictated by a fixed schedule specified before training begins.


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Sequential Dialogue Context Modeling for Spoken Language Understanding
Ankur Bapna | Gokhan Tür | Dilek Hakkani-Tür | Larry Heck
Proceedings of the 18th Annual SIGdial Meeting on Discourse and Dialogue

Spoken Language Understanding (SLU) is a key component of goal oriented dialogue systems that would parse user utterances into semantic frame representations. Traditionally SLU does not utilize the dialogue history beyond the previous system turn and contextual ambiguities are resolved by the downstream components. In this paper, we explore novel approaches for modeling dialogue context in a recurrent neural network (RNN) based language understanding system. We propose the Sequential Dialogue Encoder Network, that allows encoding context from the dialogue history in chronological order. We compare the performance of our proposed architecture with two context models, one that uses just the previous turn context and another that encodes dialogue context in a memory network, but loses the order of utterances in the dialogue history. Experiments with a multi-domain dialogue dataset demonstrate that the proposed architecture results in reduced semantic frame error rates.